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Ellison: State, localities reach agreement on distributing $300M in opioid settlement

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Ellison: State, localities reach agreement on distributing $300M in opioid settlement

Minnesota moved another step closer this week to unlocking roughly $300 million from a settlement with Johnson & Johnson and the three major U.S. drug distributors in connection to the nation’s opioid painkiller addiction crisis.

Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Monday that the state had reached an agreement with Minnesota counties and cities on how to distribute the state’s share of a pending $26 billion national settlement agreement. The state and local governments had to reach an agreement by Jan. 2, 2022, in order to maximize the amount they receive from the national settlement.

Municipal governments will receive 75% of the settlement funds while the state will receive 25% to help pay for opioid addiction treatment and prevention. The most recent estimate from Ellison’s office projects Minnesota state and local governments will receive $296 million over the next 18 years.

The settlement agreement with Johnson & Johnson and the “big three” drug distributors — Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen — is just one of several fronts in ongoing nationwide litigation against drug makers, marketers and wholesalers in connection to an epidemic of opioid painkiller addiction across the U.S.

The settlement stems from investigations by state attorneys general from across the U.S. into whether the distributors failed to screen and stop suspicious drug orders, and whether Johnson & Johnson misled patients and doctors about the addictive nature of opioid painkillers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 38 people died a day in 2019 of prescription opioid overdoses, totaling about 14,000 deaths. Lawsuits filed against drug makers such as Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, estimate hundreds of thousands of Americans died of opioid painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2015, while millions became addicted. About 5,500 Minnesotans died as a result of the addiction crisis, Ellison said.

In a statement issued with Ellison’s announcement, Pat Baustian, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and mayor of Luverne, noted the addiction epidemic’s “devastating impact on families and communities throughout Greater Minnesota,” and expressed appreciation for the state’s efforts to cooperate with local governments on distributing the funds.

“Although no amount of money can make up for the loss of life, the funding from these national settlement agreements will help our communities provide services and resources to address this crisis,” Baustian said.

The state settlement fund will be overseen and distributed by the Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council, according to Ellison’s office. Under current state law, the state opioid abatement fund distributes to local governments, but the agreement between the state and local governments requires the parties to change the law in the 2022 legislative session, according to Ellison’s office.

The local government abatement fund created by the settlement money will be allocated to all counties that participated in the settlement. It will also include municipalities that have a population of 30,000 or more, have a public health department or filed a lawsuit against the defendants in the settlement.

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Timberwolves’ offensive outburst continues in shootout win over Brooklyn

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Timberwolves’ offensive outburst continues in shootout win over Brooklyn

The Timberwolves’ formula for success has shifted over the past couple weeks.

A team that used its defense to stay afloat amid offensive struggles for the first half of the season is slowly reverting back to the form it showed at the end of last season — all offense, few stops.

And when you have as much offensive talent as Minnesota possesses, that can be enough on a lot of nights, as it was Sunday.

The Timberwolves outscored Brooklyn 136-125 to win at Target Center.

Minnesota has the best offensive rating in the NBA since Jan. 3. It’s won games with offense and a high-degree of shot making. Sunday was no different.

Anthony Edwards finished with 25 points on four triples. D’Angelo Russell added 23 points and 10 assists.

Minnesota shot 52 percent from the floor, 44 percent from 3-point range and went 26 for 31 from the free-throw line.

That was more than enough firepower to stave off Brooklyn — another of the League’s top offenses. The Nets themselves shot 51 percent from the floor and 40 percent from deep, led by 30 points from Kyrie Irving. The Wolves have had defensive slippage of late, but it’s been masked by their offensive aptitude.

Minnesota has scored 108-plus points in each of its last eight games. It’s gone over 119 points in six of those contests, and Sunday marked the third time it cleared 130 points in that stretch.

The offense that was so far behind the defense at the season’s outset — which Timberwolves coach Chris Finch has attributed to the shear amount of attention paid to the defense in training camp — has now caught up and passed the other end of the floor. The Wolves now more closely resemble the team everyone expected at the start of the season.

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Chiefs rally past Buffalo 42-36 in OT in wild playoff game

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Chiefs rally past Buffalo 42-36 in OT in wild playoff game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes found Travis Kelce in the corner of the end zone early in overtime, and the Kansas City Chiefs rallied to beat the Buffalo Bills 42-36 on Sunday night in a sizzling finish to a wild divisional-round weekend.

The lead changed hands three times in the final two minutes of regulation before Harrison Butker, who earlier missed a field goal and extra point, drilled a 49-yarder for Kansas City as time expired to force overtime.

The Chiefs won the coin toss, marched swiftly downfield against the NFL’s top-ranked but exhausted defense, and right into their fourth straight AFC title game. They’ll play the Bengals next Sunday night for a spot in the Super Bowl.

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Fauci says most states should hit omicron peak soon, Massachusetts on the downslope as wastewater data shows progress

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Fauci says most states should hit omicron peak soon, Massachusetts on the downslope as wastewater data shows progress

Most U.S. states should hit their omicron variant peak soon, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday as the Bay State and other New England states are already on the surge’s downslope.

In Massachusetts, the daily average of COVID-19 cases has dropped by 62% in recent weeks as the Boston-area coronavirus wastewater data has plunged — a signal that fewer cases are on the way.

Most states across the country should follow this trend soon, said Fauci, who is President Biden’s chief medical adviser, noting that most regions should reach an omicron peak by mid-February.

“Things are looking good,” Fauci said on ABC News “This Week.”

“We don’t want to get overconfident,” he added. “But they look like they’re going in the right direction right now.”

Fauci said he’s “as confident as you can be” about that mid-February prediction.

“You never want to be overconfident when you’re dealing with this virus … because it has certainly surprised us in the past,” Fauci said.

“But if you look at the patterns that we have seen in South Africa, in the U.K., and in Israel, and … in the Northeast and New England and upper Midwest states, they have peaked and starting to come down rather sharply,” he said. “There are still some states in the southern states and western states that continue to go up.”

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